What in tarnation is a catch in the NFL?
This is the million-dollar question that has footballs fans buzzing coming off Sunday’s “Game of the Year” between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
Trailing 27-24 with 28 seconds left, Ben Roethlisberger found tight end Jesse James for what appeared to be the game-winning score. However, the NFL’s catch rule made another appearance and the touchdown was for not.
As every scoring play is reviewed, this one is no different, except for the catch rule that seems to boggle the minds of football fans everywhere. The call on the field of a touchdown was overturned and the Steelers still trailed on the scoreboard. Two plays later, Roethlisberger was picked off in the end zone to seal the win for New England.
Now, back to the catch, or non-catch, whichever you prefer it to be called. The call of a catch was reversed because James failed to control the ball all the way to the ground, despite crossing the goal line before the ball was fumbled and hit the ground.
NFL VP of officiating, Alberto Riveron, issued a statement following the game on why the call was overturned.
“By rule, to complete the process of the catch, he must survive the ground. And by that, we mean he must maintain control of the football,” Riveron said. “As we see [on the play], [James] does put the ball over the goal line extended. Once he gets there, he loses control of the football and then the ball hits the ground.”
That call, regardless whether or not you believed that was a catch, or whether or not you actually know what a catch is (spoiler alert: nobody does), the end result could have big playoff implications. With the win, the Patriots now control their own destiny of holding the top seed in the AFC, meaning they will host the AFC Championship game, should they get there. Heading into the game, Pittsburgh held the top spot by having one less loss than New England.
So instead of a possible AFC Championship game, likely involving these same two teams, being played in Heinz Field, it could be played in Foxboro, Massachusetts, home of the reigning, defending, undisputed Super Bowl champion Patriots.
This was an instant classic of the game dubbed the “Game of the Year” and Tom Brady does what he does best; beat the Steelers and orchestrate a game-winning drive. With the win, Brady improved to 11-3 in his career against Pittsburgh, including the playoffs. He did throw an interception in the game, his first against the Steelers since 2005.
The game-winning drive was the 52nd of Brady’s illustrious career, where he ranks second only behind Peyton Manning. A key component to the drive was tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady targeted Gronk on all four of his pass attempts, completing them all for 69 yards, setting up the game-winning touchdown run from running back Dion Lewis. Gronk also caught the ensuing two-point conversion.
On top of the overturned call and the loss, the Steelers suffered arguably an even bigger loss than that of a standings column. Star wide receiver Antonio Brown left the game early in the second quarter with what is being called a partially torn calf muscle. He will not play in the final two regular season games, but the team is hopeful he will be ready to go for the playoffs. If they want to have a rematch with the Patriots and come out with a win this time, Brown is a huge determining factor in that scenario.
So after this game, nobody still knows what a catch in the NFL is, Tom Brady continued his dominance over Pittsburgh, and the Steelers could have suffered a potential season-determining loss.
The game that was billed as the “Game of the Year” certainly lived up to the hype, but not without controversy.